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The Australian National University

Views from the top of the ‘quiet revolution’: Secretarial perspectives on the new arrangements in Indigenous affairs

Discussion Paper 282 / 2006

Abstract

In the latter months of 2005 we interviewed eleven members of the Commonwealth Government’s Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs about their experiences of the new arrangements in Indigenous affairs since July 2004. This paper reports on the findings from those interviews under ten subheadings relating to various aspects of the new arrangements, ranging from the Ministerial Taskforce and the National Indigenous Council to Indigenous Coordination Centres and local and regional agreement making. In its latter sections the paper also offers some commentary and analysis. It argues that while the level of senior executive attention being given to Indigenous affairs across a broad range of Commonwealth portfolios is genuinely innovative, there are other aspects of the new arrangements that draw on and rework past experience and well-established ideas in Indigenous affairs. Taking a lead from one of the Secretaries, the paper attempts to move beyond the language of ‘mainstreaming’, to talk instead of some potential benefits of the involvement of line departments in Indigenous affairs and of the complex relationships between Indigenous-specific and general policy mechanisms. The paper notes a diversity of opinion among the Secretaries on a number of aspects of the new arrangements and argues that this is healthy. It concludes by noting that the way governments organise themselves was only one of two aspects of Minister Vanstone’s claimed ‘quiet revolution’ in Indigenous affairs, and that whether the new arrangements work will ultimately depend on other things as well, such as relationships between government and Indigenous communities built over extended periods of time.

ISSN: 
1036 1774
ISBN: 
0 7315 5657 7

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